IndyCar sees gains in key metrics but aims for more
IndyCar finished its 2019 season Sept. 22 with the feeling that key performance indicators are continuing to point in the right direction.
This year marked the first of the full-season media rights deal with NBC Sports, and the first with new title sponsor NTT. NBC reported a 9% increase in IndyCar viewership for the year, and the series said attendance was up at roughly half of its 17 events while flat to slightly down at the others. The series also got storied Formula One team McLaren Racing to commit to joining the series full-time next season, setting up the opportunity for more global attention in 2020.
Still, given the major increase in marketing support and exposure that NBC granted the series this year, some within the series were hoping for even more stark viewership gains. Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said the series is content with the start.
“We’re pleased with it but not satisfied, so now it’s about, ‘What can we do from that stronger base for next year?’” he said. “Everybody [between IndyCar and NBC] has felt good about it. It’s anecdotal, but they’re pleased with the numbers they’ve got for [streaming service] NBC Sports Gold.”
IndyCar was aired on network TV three more times this year than last year, when the series split media rights between ABC and NBC Sports, so an increase in viewership was expected. Nonetheless, IndyCar’s viewership between linear TV and digital streaming was up from 1.011 million last year to 1.105 million this year. That includes an 11% increase for the Indianapolis 500, which NBC aired for the first time.
Jon Miller, NBC Sports president of programming, said IndyCar exceeded NBC’s expectations both in ad sales and NBC Sports Gold subscriptions this year, though he did not disclose specifics.
“In a sports marketplace where flat is the new up, to be up [nearly] double digits with any kind of property over that sustained amount of time, from Q1 to the third week of September, we’re very pleased with it and it gives us something to build on for next year,” Miller said.
Miller attended the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., and spent time talking to sponsors and advertisers.
Miles said NTT will have more of a fan-facing presence next year after a somewhat quiet first year aside from the company being on the series’ signage and official app. NTT executives based in Tokyo were at Pocono Raceway this summer working on an IndyCar activation plan called Digital Transformation. NTT now also has an official deal with MLB.